Thursday, October 31, 2013

Rebublican Political Action Committee Needs Proofreader

Yesterday evening, I saw an independent pro-Cuccinelli TV ad on the NBC29 5 o'clock news in Charlottesville.

Produced by something called the "Conservative Campaign Committee," it praises gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli as a "Conservative Rebublican."

You read that right: "REBUBLICAN."

Rebublican
With friends like these, who needs Purple PAC?

You can see the video here.

(Cross-posted, in slightly different form, from Bearing Drift.)



Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Bill Clinton Came to Charlottesville

Terry McAuliffe, Bill Clinton
About one thousand supporters of gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe gathered at the Paramount Theater in Charlottesville to see and hear former U.S. President Bill Clinton deliver a get-out-the-vote pep talk on behalf of his friend and former fundraiser.

While Clinton was the big draw, the program also included speeches by Democratic Party of Virginia chair Charniele Herring, House Minority Leader (and 57th District Delegate) David Toscano, Democratic lieutenant governor nominee Ralph Northam, former Fifth District Congressman Tom Perriello, and former University of Virginia climate scientist Michael Mann.

Here are pictures (on Examiner.com).

Here's the video:

More coverage from Aaron Richardson in the Daily Progress, NBC29, the Newsplex and Steve Szkotak of the AP (via Washington Post).

McAuliffe faces two opponents in the election for Virginia governor on November 5: Republican nominee Ken Cuccinelli and Libertarian candidate Robert Sarvis.



Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Refuse to Vote for Any of These Candidates

Competition has been described as the lifeblood of any democracy. If that's the case, Virginia's democracy is pretty anemic.

Two years ago, there were 55 uncontested seats for the Virginia House of Delegates. This year, competition is a bit better, as there are only 45 uncontested races among the 100 up for election.

There are an additional 12 seats, however, for which there is no major-party challenger, with incumbents facing independent candidates or candidates backed by the Libertarian or Independent Green parties. (One exception, District 29, has a non-incumbent major-party candidate facing an independent for an open seat.) Some of these are "paper candidates" who have not actively campaigned for the position, so the first time most voters will encounter their names is when they enter the voting booth.

That means we have a total of 57 seats in which either the Republican or Democratic party has surrendered without a fight. A large majority of Virginia voters will have no meaningful choice on Election Day.

I recommend that nobody should vote for any of these unopposed candidates. A strong and clear message should be sent to the Republicans and Democrats that voters want to have a choice on Election Day. The parties' legislative caucuses are responsible for the gerrymandering that creates safe seats but the RPV and DPVA are also responsible for building their organizations in areas of the state that they are currently forfeiting to their opponents. (Alexandria and Arlington County, for example, have been fully ceded by the Republicans to the Democrats.)

In the following list, I have not indicated any party affiliation of the candidates, because that doesn't matter. I have indicated, with an asterisk (*) whether those candidates are incumbents. (Only one is not.) If you want to learn which parties nominated them, you can look it up.

Should it turn out that you really like David Toscano or Rob Bell, for instance, feel free to write in his name. Your loyal support will be recorded but the vote will not be counted toward that candidate's 99 percent winning total. If you do not like the unopposed candidate in your district, write in the name of someone you admire -- Ron Paul or Ronald Reagan or Ronald McDonald, or whatever fits your mood.

No candidate in a democracy should win by default. Those who do should be shamed by reducing their vote totals. "Winning" in a field of one diminishes the candidate who gains office because he has had no need to defend his positions, beliefs, and record before the electorate. He has accomplished nothing but further alienating himself from voters, whose approval he no longer requires.

Here is the list of candidates who do not deserve your vote on November 5th:

District 1 Terry Kilgore*
District 4 Ben Chafin
District 5 Israel O'Quinn*
District 8 Greg Habeeb*
District 9 Charles Poindexter*

District 11 Onzlee Ware*
District 15 Todd Gilbert*
District 20 Dickie Bell*
District 24 Ben Cline*
District 25 Steve Landes*

District 26 Tony Wilt*
District 27 Roxann Robinson*
District 28 Bill Howell*
District 36 Ken Plum*
District 39 Vivian Watts*

District 46 Charniele Herring*
District 48 Bob Brink*
District 52 Luke Torian*
District 54 Bobby Orrock*
District 56 Peter Farrell*

District 57 David Toscano*
District 58 Rob Bell*
District 59 Matt Fariss*
District 61 Tommy Wright*
District 62 Riley Ingram*

District 63 Rosalyn Dance*
District 64 Rick Morris*
District 66 Kirk Cox*
District 70 Delores McQuinn*
District 72 Jimmie Massie*

District 73 John O'Bannon*
District 74 Joe Morrissey*
District 76 Chris Jones*
District 77 Lionell Spruill, Sr*
District 79 Johnny Joannou*

District 80 Matthew James*
District 81 Barry Knight*
District 83 Chris Stolle*
District 89 Daun Hester*
District 90 Algie Howell*

District 91 Gordon Helsel*
District 92 Jeion Ward*
District 96 Brenda Pogge*
District 97 Chris Peace*
District 99 Margaret Ransone*
And please -- don't get me started on how I have received fund-raising appeals from some of these unopposed candidates. (What do they need money for?)

(Cross-posted from Bearing Drift.)

Monday, October 28, 2013

Recent Articles on Examiner.com: Virginia Politics, Tina Fey, Paranoia, and JFK

Over the past few weeks, I have posted a number of articles as the Charlottesville Libertarian Examiner on Examiner.com, mostly interviews about the upcoming (November 5) Virginia election but also some author interviews and reports on events in Charlottesville and around Virginia.

Topics included (in no particular order) the government shutdown, Robert Sarvis, NSA spying on American citizens, Tina Fey's visit to the University of Virginia, birthers and truthers, John F. Kennedy's legacy as President, political paranoia, drones, Syria, Ken Cuccinelli, gay marriage, liquor laws, civil liberties, Tareq Salahi, the Supreme Court, Calvin Coolidge, the Boston Marathon bombers, E.W. Jackson, marijuana legalization, Terry McAuliffe, Charlottesville city council candidates, religious liberty, Gary Johnson, free markets, and former Republican presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower and Richard M. Nixon.

Here's the list in reverse chronological order:

General Assembly hopeful Laura Delhomme 'thrilled' to share ticket with Sarvis
Former NM Governor Gary Johnson talks about shutdown, surveillance, and Sarvis
JFK was 'cautious, conservative' says UVA political scientist Larry Sabato
Larry Sabato discusses Cuccinelli, McAuliffe, Sarvis in 2013 election
Virginia Film Festival to include documentaries on Kennedy, Nixon, Santorum

Robert Sarvis visits Charlottesville, talks about shutdown, health care, polls
TV star Tina Fey argues for importance of the arts at University of Virginia
Historian Jesse Walker discusses birtherism, trutherism, and AIDS conspiracies
Author Jesse Walker discusses political paranoia and conspiracy theories on 9/11
Congressman Robert Hurt expresses 'grave concerns' over potential Syria war

Congressman Bob Goodlatte 'skeptical' about U.S. military intervention in Syria

Virginia candidates gather in Buena Vista to launch campaign season
Two former Virginia governors assess 2013 gubernatorial campaign
GOP Senate candidate Shak Hill thinks government is 'overreaching'
Virginia LP governor candidate Robert Sarvis will push for liquor-law reform

Heritage Foundation's Matthew Spalding assesses the Calvin Coolidge revival

Attorney General Cuccinelli calls Charlottesville ABC sting operation 'overkill'
Charlottesville civil liberties lawyer assesses 2012-13 Supreme Court term
Libertarians praise Supreme Court's gay marriage ruling in DOMA case
LP gubernatorial hopeful Robert Sarvis aims for marriage equality in Virginia

Six Virginia Libertarian candidates advance to 2013 general election ballot

Journalist Christian Caryl investigates Boston's 'lone-wolf' Tsarnaev brothers
GOP candidate Ken Cuccinelli says no to including Libertarian nominee in debates
Former Congressman Tom Davis comments on IRS scandal with warning for GOP
GOP lieutenant governor candidate E. W. Jackson 'certainly used marijuana'

Seven candidates seek Virginia GOP's nomination for Lieutenant Governor
Gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe hosts campaign kickoff event at PVCC
James Robinson discusses 'why nations fail' at George Mason University
Charlottesville Republicans present two City Council candidates for 2013
Current politics has Nixons but no Eisenhowers, says biographer Jeffrey Frank

Veteran journalist Evan Thomas draws contrast between Obama and Eisenhower
Amity Shlaes discusses significance of Calvin Coolidge at Heritage Foundation
Moving Picture Institute announces first annual Liberty in Film Awards
Breaking: Ex-prosecutor Steve Deaton enters Commonwealth's Attorney race
Virginia governor hopeful Tareq Salahi is 'pro-same-sex marriage,' pro-hemp

Ken Cuccinelli clarifies remarks on marijuana legalization as federalism issue

2013 Charlottesville voters may have historic election for constitutional posts
Rutherford Institute asks local lawmakers to speak out against drones
Governor McDonnell, President Obama proclaim 2013 'Religious Freedom Day'
Steve Forbes makes the moral case for free markets and free people

That list of 40 articles goes back to the second week of January 2013. Whatever else gets published this year will be featured in an end-of-the-year rundown on December 31.




Sunday, October 27, 2013

Bill Clinton Coming to Charlottesville

Paramount Theatre, Charlottesville
After noting Hillary Rodham Clinton's birthday yesterday, I was reminded that her husband, former U.S. President Bill Clinton, will be in Charlottesville this week.

Clinton will take part in a campaign rally for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe at the Paramount Theatre on the downtown mall. 

The campaign stop is part of a series this week that included events in Dale City, Hampton, and Richmond earlier today, as well as events in Blacksburg, Herndon, and Norfolk and on Monday; Harrisonburg on Tuesday; and Roanoke as well as Charlottesville on Wednesday.

The Charlottesville event is scheduled for 10:45 a.m., with doors to the venue opening at 9:30 a.m.   Tickets have been made available on line and at local Democratic party headquarters on a "first-come, first-served" basis and NBC29 reports tonight that tickets are still available.

Washington Post reporters Ben Pershing and Laura Vozzella write that the Clinton-McAuliffe campaign tour serves a dual purpose:
Boosting turnout to put McAuliffe in the governor’s mansion is only part of the agenda for the longtime friends and political allies. The other is to hold up Clinton’s presidency, particularly his focus on creating jobs and reaching across the aisle, as a model for what McAuliffe hopes to accomplish as governor.
McAuliffe has stopped in Charlottesville several times while campaigning this year, including a visit to Piedmont Virginia Community College on May 6 as part of the official kick-off for his bid for governor.

In the election on November 5, McAuliffe faces two opponents: Republican nominee Ken Cuccinelli and Libertarian nominee Robert Sarvis. Polls will be open that day from 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.





Saturday, October 26, 2013

Gerald Ford's Views on a Hillary Clinton Presidential Run

Hillary Clinton at the 1996 Democratic National Convention
Today is former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's 66th birthday. In 2016, she will be 69 years old, the same age that Ronald Reagan was when he became the nation's oldest elected president. Still, Clinton -- also a former senator from New York and First Lady during the two terms of Bill Clinton -- is widely seen as a likely presidential candidate to succeed Barack Obama.

Clinton is not the only potential Democratic candidate for 2016. Vice President Joe Biden has made known his desire to run for his current boss's job. Others whose names have been suggested are New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley, former Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer, and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren.

I was intrigued, while recently reading a book about former President Gerald Ford, to find out that Ford had some strong opinions about Hillary Clinton as a potential president and presidential candidate.

In Thomas M. DeFrank's 2007 book, Write It When I'm Gone, Ford was unusually candid. The premise of the book is that, over a series of interviews conducted in Ford's post-presidency (mostly in the 1990s but also as recently as a year before his death), DeFrank wrote down Ford's thoughts about politics, policy, and personalities with the understanding that nothing from the interviews would be published until after he died.

Ford did not meet either of the Clintons until after Bill's inauguration in 1992, but he admired Hillary (somewhat begrudgingly) and predicted she could be the Democrats' presidential nominee in 2004 or 2008. (Ford did not have the prescience to see the formidable challenge HRC would face in Barack Obama. At Ford's death in December 2006, Obama was barely on the national radar screen, much less Ford's own.)

Over three pages of Write It When I'm Gone (pp. 149-152), DeFrank recounts several conversations with the former president about his assessment of the then-First Lady:
... he and Hillary were polar opposites ideologically, and he wasn't sure she would be a particularly appealing candidate if she ever ran for the White House.

But those first encounters [at the Fords' Colorado vacation home] convinced him she had the emotional toughness for the job:

"I learned this: she's stronger and tougher than he is," he told me in 1994. "When she takes a point, you're gonna have to be damn sure you're well informed, because she won't compromise as quickly or as easily as he. She's very bright, she's strong, and I think he defers to her. When she gets her dander up, she ain't gonna roll over."
When Clinton ran for the U.S. Senate in 2000, Ford thought it was a cynical move to give her a stepping-stone to the presidency, but he also thought it would backfire on her. "Truth is," he told DeFrank, "that's a handicap to her."

Nonetheless, Ford still foresaw a White House run in Hillary's future:
"The Republicans will make a mistake if they think she is gonna be a pushover. She is a tough, knowledgeable,articulate lady. On the other hand, her toughness in the political arena may not be a big asset. She obviously wants to stay in the political spotlight."

By 2002, he was certain Hillary had already decided to make a presidential bid:

"I'll make this prediction, as long as this is off the record. I'll gar-antee [sic] you, either in 2004 or 2008, Hillary Rodham Clinton will be a candidate for president. [And] I wouldn't rule out Hillary in 2004, I really wouldn't."
Obviously, Ford was wrong about 2004 but he was right about 2008 -- 2016 was beyond the scope of his predictions in 2002, of course.

DeFrank reported further:
Asked if Hillary would be formidable, he replied that her nomination by the Democrats was a foregone conclusion: "Hillary is gonna be on the ticket in '04 or '08, one or the other, and you can write that down."

Why was he so sure Hillary was running?

"Because she has unlimited ambition. When you look at her record, she's a bona fide liberal with unlimited ambition.

"You look at her track record. She went to Arkansas and married Clinton because she saw in him a way to get national recognition 'cause she thought from the beginning he would be a candidate for president and she would get to be president. There's nothing in her track record, Tom, which shows any [inclination] to stay in the background."
I have to wonder whether Ford heard that joke making the rounds in the 1990s, which went something like this:
Bill and Hillary were driving in the countryside when they stopped for gas. The gas station attendant smiled and said, "Hello, Hillary, it's been a long time."

Curious, Bill asked her who he was.

"Oh, that's an old boyfriend of mine. We were once engaged to be married."

Bill chuckled and said, "Isn't that interesting! If you had married him, you'd be the wife of a gas-station attendant."

"No, Bill," Hillary said. "If I had married him, he would be President of the United States."
In any case, DeFrank also noted Ford's doubts about Hillary's electability as a presidential candidate.
... he thought she'd have trouble getting elected because of all the personal and political baggage she'd be toting.

"It depends on the public sentiment in the years out [at the time]. Of course, she's very vulnerable -- she was the mastermind of that terrible health care program which she tried to sell. So that would always be a liability for her."
(After 20 years, would Hillarycare be more popular than Obamacare?)

Later in the book (p. 252), DeFrank recounts a 2006 interview in which he and Ford discussed the upcoming 2008 presidential campaign.
His Republican favorite was still Rudy Giuliani. "I think Giuliani is an electrifying guy. He's a great speaker. He's had a good record of winning in New York City, and he can be tough."

Ever the political junkie, the House minority leader who used to travel 250 days a year boosting Republicans said he was relishing a head-to-head confrontation between Hillary Clinton and Rudy. For years he'd been telling me Hillary was consumed by ambition, was intent on running in 2004 or 2008, and that despite her political baggage -- and her husbands -- would make "a darned good candidate."

"That would be a great contest between Hillary and Giuliani." He wasn't sure who would win -- it would depend on what else was happening in the country -- but he thought Giuliani had the edge.
"What else was happening in the country" turned out to be the operative phrase in that speculative paragraph.

It happens that I was present at the 2006 presentation of the Gerald R. Ford Journalism Prizes at the National Press Club, where Thomas DeFrank was one of the recipients. That turned out to be the first time that Ford himself was not able to attend the event, because of his poor health. Dick Cheney, then vice president and much earlier White House chief of staff in the Ford administration, was the principal speaker at that ceremony.





Friday, October 25, 2013

From the Archives: Review of a 1997 'Sunday in the Park with George'

Having previously thought that all of my theatre reviews from the late 1990s had been posted here for archival access, just this week I uncovered a piece that had been inaccessible because it had somewhat mysteriously been converted into an old WordPerfect format.

Yesterday I found an online resource that will convert text documents from one format to another and -- ta-dah! -- I have a review of the 1997 joint production by Washington's Arena Stage and Arlington's Signature Theatre of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine's Sunday in the Park with George.

So, for the first time on line, here is my May 1997 review, which appeared in the Metro Herald under the headline, "Sunday Sings!"

- - - - -



Washington audiences have an embarrassment of riches available this spring. Within a few days, Chicago, The King and I, and Sunday in the Park with George all opened. Together, these three plays offer examples of the best by the giants of American musical theatre: Bob Fosse, Rodgers & Hammerstein, and Stephen Sondheim.

In a historic collaboration, Arlington's Signature Theatre and Washington's Arena Stage have joined forces to present a play that neither could produce on its own: the Pulitzer-prize-winning Sunday in the Park with George, by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine. This production is directed by Signature's Eric D. Schaeffer, whose work at the tiny but innovative Signature Theatre has earned him a national reputation, and produced by Arena's outgoing artistic director, Douglas C. Wager.

Like most Sondheim musicals, Sunday is not for everyone. For Sondheim fans, however, it is bedazzling. The intimate setting of Arena's Kreeger Theater is far superior to the larger auditoriums in which earlier Sunday productions have been staged. Sondheim's sophisticated lyrics and intricate melodies and counterpoints are far more easily heard in such a venue.

Perhaps the most valuable aspect of the smaller auditorium is the ability of the audience to see more closely Patricia Zipprodt's costumes. Because of the foresight of Schaeffer, the costumes used in this production of Sunday are the same ones used originally on Broadway (and since used by the Arlington Players a few years back). Zipprodt has successfully simulated the pointillist style of painting invented by Sunday's protagonist, neo impressionist Georges Seurat, for his masterpiece (now hanging in the Art Institute of Chicago) Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grand Jatte.

Seurat's work and style of work is the focus of the first act. George (played by Sal Viviano) is obsessed by light, color, balance, design. He has discovered that it is possible to create the illusion of mixed colors by setting discrete points or dots of color side by side, in juxtaposition to each other. He is fully absorbed by his work, ignoring and therefore losing his mistress, appropriately named Dot (Viviano's real-life spouse, Liz Larsen). We meet the characters whom we see in the final painting, but whether they are real people or the imaginings of George is hard to say.

The second act focuses on another artist, also named George, who may be the great grandson of the first act's George. At least his grandmother, Marie, insists that this is so. Act II's George also works in a new medium, but his primary challenge is raising the money to pursue his art. Tired of criticism that he has lost his way, that his work is no longer new or creative, he travels to France to visit the island of La Grand Jatte. There, he encounters his (perhaps?) great grandmother, Dot, who counsels him to "move on."

This synopsis cannot do the play justice. Sunday in the Park with George is not a typical musical. This is not a simple boy meets girl, boy loses girl scenario. Indeed, there is no conventional plot at all. Through the integration of music, lyrics, movement, lighting, and costumes, composer and playwright raise important issues about artistic integrity, personal relationships, and the importance of family.

Viviano plays the two Georges in contrast. Act I George is cold, obsessive. At first Viviano's stiffness in the first act is off putting, but soon it becomes apparent that this is what drives Dot away, into the arms of the more caring Louis, the baker who takes her to America. Highly rational and highly intellectual, focused laser-like on his creative endeavors, this George will be all too familiar to Washingtonians, who encounter this type every day. Act II George is more well rounded, though still devoted to his work. He seems more able to connect to his fellow human beings, particularly his grandmother, and has a deeper understanding of his own faults and shortcomings.

As Dot and Marie, Liz Larsen is astonishing. Her voice is as clear as a bell, her emotions sincere and convincing. We know she genuinely loves George, but cannot spend her life with him because he has another love his art. Her warmth contrasts suitably with George's chilliness, and the comparison helps us better understand the central character. Singing "Children and Art" in the second act, we begin to understand what really counts in life. And her rendition of "Move On" to and with George in Act II makes it hard to believe that Sondheim has written anything more, well, moving.

The rest of the cast is uniformly excellent. Drawn from the professional ranks of New York, regional, and Washington theatre, this cast includes a number of Arena and Signature veterans.

Anyone who works in the non profit world or, for that matter, anyone who is engaged in campaign fundraising will be captivated by the action, lyrics, and dialogue of the Act II number, "Putting It Together," which describes the schmoozing and bootlicking that are necessary to keep one's head above water in these situations.

Schaeffer has done well in bringing Sunday in the Park with George up to date. The modern art in Act II is now computer generated graphics and music, rather than the laser light show that was so cutting edge in 1984. One quibble, however, may be necessary as future productions are planned. The script requires that Marie be born in 1885. With the second act set in 1984, this was not hard to believe many people live to be 98 or 99 years old. Now that the second act has been brought forward to 1996, however, it stretches our credulity to have Marie, now 111 years old, as the grandmother of a 32 year old grandson. Will a revival in 2007 have a 122 year old Marie?

The Arena/Signature Sunday in the Park with George is breathtaking. I hope it will have an extended run that will allow multiple visits for those of us who are truly moved by Sondheim's best work.

- - - - -

As I dig through paper and virtual files, more surprises may turn up.  Please stay tuned!






Thursday, October 24, 2013

Purple PAC TV Ad Supporting Robert Sarvis Goes Live

Robert Sarvis in Charlottesville
Two weeks ago, I scooped Virginia's political media by revealing that a newly-formed super PAC was going to run TV or radio ads in favor of Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Robert Sarvis.

Last night, I saw the Purple PAC ad for Sarvis during the 11 o'clock news on WVIR-TV NBC29 in Charlottesville.

Writing on Virginia Politics on Demand, I said:

In July, the Center for Public Integrity reported on the formation of a new, libertarian political action committee that aims to support libertarian (and Libertarian) candidates around the country:

A super PAC quietly formed this spring by a prominent libertarian has rushed to a quick fundraising start thanks to a small network of wealthy, like-minded donors.

Purple PAC, a super PAC led by former Federal Election Commission Chairman Brad Smith and Cato Institute founder Ed Crane, raised $575,000 from the time the group launched in early May through the end of June, new FEC filings show....

Smith, who currently serves as the chairman of the anti-campaign finance regulation group Center for Competitive Politics, said Purple PAC plans to make independent expenditures promoting “freedom-oriented” candidates who are fiscally conservative and socially moderate.

These are viewpoints Smith says a large number of voters hold, although they have little influence in Washington.

“Swing voters don’t feel that either of the major parties is representing them,” Smith said, adding the group intends to focus much of its resources on battleground states, as its name suggests.

Now Virginia Politics on Demand has learned that Purple PAC is independently planning to purchase air time on radio (and perhaps television) in support of Virginia gubernatorial candidate Robert Sarvis, the nominee of the Libertarian Party.

The proposed script of the ad reads in part:
Virginia, we have a rational choice for Governor.

Why choose between an ethically challenged, socially intolerant conservative and an ethically challenged, big government liberal?

Robert Sarvis, entrepreneur, libertarian.

Social tolerance and lower taxes: Virginia's future.

Send a message on November 5 and vote Sarvis for Governor.

(Paid for by the Purple PAC, Brad Smith, Treasurer.)

The Purple PAC's address of record is in Falls Church, Virginia, so it should come as no surprise that its first major expenditure should come on behalf of a candidate in the Commonwealth.

VPOD reached out to the Sarvis campaign, which had no knowledge of the potential Purple PAC ad buy.
The only major difference in the text that I reported from what ended up in the TV commercial is that it no longer lists Brad Smith as treasurer in the disclaimer. Instead, it somewhat mysteriously features a photograph of Joey Coon on top of the disclaimer, without naming him.

If I find the Purple PAC ad on YouTube, I will post it here in an update.

UPDATE: Purple PAC has put out a press release about the pro-Sarvis spot. It says, in part:
"Both the Republican and Democratic candidates are right about each other," said Ed Crane, President of the Purple PAC. "Ken Cuccinelli is a socially intolerant, hard-right conservative with little respect for civil liberties. Terry McAuliffe is a big government liberal with little respect for economic liberties. Both have been engulfed in scandal. Fortunately, Robert Sarvis offers an alternative, an agenda grounded in free markets and social tolerance."

He added that Virginia voters need to send a message to both political parties. "Pollster John Zogby has found that 59 percent of voters surveyed answered 'yes' to the question 'Would you define yourself as fiscally conservative and socially liberal?'" said Crane. "It's time that the two major parties made room for those voters - a majority of the electorate - or risk losing them altogether."
The news release notes that the commercial can be seen on Vimeo at https://vimeo.com/77629652. It has not yet shown up on YouTube -- where, I'll assert, more people would see it than they would on Vimeo.

UPDATE 2: Purple PAC has added an embeddable version of its Robert Sarvis TV ad to its own YouTube channel. (It's also the only video, so far, on that YouTube channel.) Here it is:



Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Robert Sarvis Speaks at the University of Virginia

Robert Sarvis speaks to students at UVA
Virginia gubernatorial candidate Robert Sarvis spoke at the University of Virginia last Thursday evening, one week before the final debate between his election rivals, Republican nominee Ken Cuccinelli and Democrat Terry McAuliffe.

WDBJ-TV, the media cosponsor of the debate, announced on October 10 that Sarvis, the Libertarian Party's nominee, would not be invited to participate because he had failed to achieve a threshold, set by the Democratic and Republican candidates in consultation with the events cosponsors, of a RealClearPolitics average of 10 percent in public opinion polls.

According to the Washington Post, WDBJ has asked the McAuliffe and Cuccinelli camps to reconsider because the station has borne the brunt of negative backlash over the decision. "As of Saturday evening," the Post's Ben Pershing reported, "Sarvis’s poll average on the RealClearPolitics Web site was 9.8 percent."

  Early last week, UVA political scientist Larry Sabato told me that he would probably have included Sarvis in the debate if he were running it.
“You know, I understand because I've been in the position of running debates, but when I turned down a third-party candidate it was because he was nowhere near the ten percent level.”

Sarvis, he pointed out, “has been over the 10 percent level in a number of surveys and they all have a margin of error.” He was showing an average of 9 percent on the day the debate decision was made.

“I've got news for you: there's a two or three percent margin of error and that suggests that he could just as easily be over 10 as under 10. I'm surprised that there hasn't been more of an outcry that he's been excluded from the debate.”

Speaking in the Newcomb Theater, Sarvis fielded questions from an audience made up mostly of students but which also included faculty and staff as well as Charlottesville-area voters.

Derek Quizon, a reporter for the Daily Progress, interviewed a couple of students who attended the event:
Kyle Butler, a second-year math and economics major, said the national debt could give the party the push it needs, as slavery pushed the Republicans to the forefront in the 19th century.

The question is, how long will it take? Butler said he’s not sure.

“It’s really hard to tell,” Butler said. “When people see that debt is a real problem and they acknowledge it.”

Dylan Brewer, a fourth-year student majoring in economics and foreign affairs, said that moment is years away. But he’ll keep voting Libertarian with the hope that the party will gain momentum – and people will have a viable third option on Election Day.

“A lot of people have a false sense that voting is about picking the lesser of two evils,” Brewer said. “I don’t think that embodies the democratic spirit.”

Here is the video of Sarvis speaking at UVA, beginning with opening remarks, followed by a Q&A with the audience.
The same night that Robert Sarvis spoke at UVA, his wife, Dr. Astrid Sarvis, posted on YouTube an impassioned plea for including her husband in the final gubernatorial debate. The video quickly went viral (relatively speaking) and as of this writing, it has been viewed almost 6,000 times with 183 likes (and one dislike).




Tuesday, October 22, 2013

From the Archives: A Look Back at 1989's 'The End of History?'

There were, perhaps, only two scholarly articles published in limited-circulation journals of opinion in the twentieth century that stimulated debate and discussion far outsizing the usual readership their authors and editors might have expected.

One was George Kennan's "The Sources of Soviet Conduct," based on his "long telegram" from Moscow and published pseudonymously in Foreign Affairs in 1947. The other was Francis Fukuyama's "The End of History?," which appeared in The National Interest in 1989.  (You readers might be able to suggest other articles with similar reach and controversy; feel free to name them in the comments section, below.)

The phenomenon that was "The End of History?" was described by James Atlas in the New York Times Magazine in October 1989:

Within weeks, "The End of History?" had become the hottest topic around, this year's answer to Paul Kennedy's phenomenal best seller, "The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers." George F. Will was among the first to weigh in, with a Newsweek column in August; two weeks later, Fukuyama's photograph appeared in Time. The French quarterly Commentaire announced that it was devoting a special issue to "The End of History?" The BBC sent a television crew. Translations of the piece were scheduled to appear in Dutch, Japanese, Italian and Icelandic. Ten Downing Street requested a copy. In Washington, a newsdealer on Connecticut Avenue reported, the summer issue of The National Interest was "outselling everything, even the pornography."

"Controversial" didn't begin to cover the case. Unlike that other recent philosophical cause celebre, Allan Bloom's "The Closing of the American Mind," Fukuyama's essay was the work of a representative from what is often referred to in academic circles as the real world. This was no professor, according to the contributor's note that ran in the magazine, but the "deputy director of the State Department's policy planning staff."

Fukuyama later expanded his article into a book, The End of History and the Last Man, but before that was released, he participated in a lively conversation about the changing conditions that resulted in the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the return of liberal democracy to Central Europe, and the economic liberalization of the People's Republic of China.  That era also saw the end of non-communist, authoritarian regimes in South Korea and other East Asian countries, Chile and elsewhere in Latin America, and South Africa and its neighbors, with varying degrees of successful transition.

Some of that conversation appeared in print but some of it was conducted face-to-face with scholars, policy analysts, and politicians.  One such occasion was a conference at the U.S. Institute of Peace on July 24, 1989 (mentioned in passing in Atlas' article, cited above), coincident with the publication of Fukuyama's article in The National Interest's summer number.

I happened to attend that event and apparently took comprehensive notes, which I transformed into an article that was published just after Labor Day in the New York City Tribune.  It's hard to believe that "The End of History?" controversy is almost a quarter-century old.  Many of the doubts expressed by participants in that USIP conference, you will see, proved to be prescient given all that has happened since then -- the first Gulf War, the Global War on Terror, the Arab Spring, the decline of liberal democracy in Russia under Vladimir Putin, and so forth.

Here, for the first time on the Internet, is "Historians Debate End of History," as it appeared in the New York City Tribune on September 5, 1989.

- - -

An amazing debate is taking place in Washington and other world capitals. The subject is more cerebral than the typical debates about policy and performance that we read about in the papers. Participants in this debate include historians, philosophers, journalists, literary gurus, and politicians. And the time-frame of the events discussed in this debate is “plus or minus 200 years”!

The object of this intense speculation and discussion as an article in the current issue of The National Interest, a quarterly journal devoted to defense and foreign policy issues. In the article entitled, “The End of History?”, author Francis Fukuyama argues that our era will see the end of ideological struggle because liberal democracy has triumphed and all contenders against it – including fascism and communism – are in quick retreat.

Drawing on the philosophy of history developed by the 19th-century German philosopher G.W.F. Hegel (who also inspired Karl Marx) and Hegel's 20th-century disciple Alexandre Kojeve, Fukuyama asserts that the fundamental changes we see occurring in the Soviet Union and what we used to call Red China signify something far greater than anyone has yet thought.

“What we may be witnessing is not just the end of the Cold War, or the passing of a particular period of postwar history,” says Fukuyama, “but the end of history as such: that is, the end point of mankind's ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.”

Heavy stuff! To consider the implications of Fukuyama's thesis, the United States Institute of Peace gathered an impressive array of scholars at its headquarters in Washington recently. The panel included Gertrude Himmelfarb, a professor of history emeritus from New York University; syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer; Ambassador Owen Harries, co-editor of The National Interest; historian Richard Pipes; and Leon Wieseltier, literary editor of The New Republic. Fukuyama was there to defend his thesis.

Needless to say, the three-hour workshop was intellectually stimulating. Wieseltier launched the first salvo. “I don't believe we are witnessing the end of history,” he said. “We are witnessing the end of the 20th century, and good riddance,” explaining: “The defeat of communism is not quite the same thing as the triumph of liberalism.”


Others found shortcomings in Fukuyama's work without condemning it. Pipes, for instance, said that history is not a good tool to predict the future. “History does not teach clairvoyance,” he noted, “it teaches patience.” Pipes was seconded by Himmelfarb, who said that “history doesn't tell us what will happen, only that something will happen.”

For his part, Krauthammer – who in an essay in Time magazine last year may have been the first American intellectual to proclaim an end to the Cold War – said that Fukuyama has it “half-right.” There may be an end to ideology, he argued, but it is an unwarranted leap to call that an end to history. Simply because the world lacks competing ideologies does not mean evil will be eliminated. “Evil will always be inherent in human nature and will always be able to find an organizing principle.”

Krauthammer was echoed by Harries, who said that “one shouldn't underestimate the inventiveness and imagination of evil.” He said that “it's more certain that Marxism-Leninism has failed than that liberal democracy has triumphed,” adding the perspective that Fukuyama's article “could have been written in 1928.” At that time, he said, “the prospects for liberal democracy looked good … but then the Great Depression came and all bets were off.” The Depression made possible the rise of the Third Reich and, eventually, the Soviet-Nazi alliance that started World War II.

Himmelfarb warned that we should not be too complacent. Using a phrase familiar to anyone who has studied Soviet propaganda, Prof. Himmelfarb said: “It is no accident, comrades, that liberal democracy exists in so few countries.” Although both communist and Third World regimes seem attracted to liberal democracy because of its economic success, the finality of the triumph of liberal democracy depends on more than continued economic prosperity.

“Liberal democracy is a very difficult regime to sustain,” she said. It is fragile – it requires compromise, accommodation, civility, consensus on large questions.

There is little evidence that these nuances of democracy are understood by current communists seeking reform. Pipes pointed out that “the liberalization of the Soviet Union is an extremely superficial phenomenon.” He said that his conversations with reformers in Moscow showed him that they don't understand what liberalism really involves.

For example, they don't understand the idea of protecting the rights of accused criminals even if that person is obviously guilty of a crime. Concepts like habeas corpus are totally alien to them. A basic problem of perestroika is convincing Soviet citizens, steeped since birth in the teaching of Marx and Lenin, that it's okay to make a profit. These are all things we take for granted in the United States.

Fukuyama agreed that there is no certainty in the changes taking place in the world. “It looks increasingly dicey,” he said, that Gorbachev “can keep all the balls that he's juggling in the air.” He warned of a real threat of fascism in the Soviet Union, Slavophile fascists and militarists who make no secret of their anti-Semitism and disdain for non-Russian ethnic groups.

Still, he said, what you see in many countries is “liberalism corroding the moral basis” of political ideologies like communism. He used China as an example. Despite the June 4 massacre, he asserted, “Tiananmen Square vindicates my position.” The remarkable thing about the Chinese experience is that Deng Xiaoping's economic liberalization was supposed to take place without accompanying political reform. The people would not stand for that. The Chinese people, Fukuyama said, “wanted political liberalization not because it brings economic rewards but for itself.” The basic human urge for liberty is hard to stifle.

Ironically, Fukuyama's article about the end of history is just the beginning of what will be a long and fruitful debate about human nature and politics. Already some of the sharpest minds in the United States are participating in this subject.

Richard Sincere is a Washington-based issues analyst and writer.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Winning through 'winsomeness, equanimity, and a moderate temperament'

(This article appeared originally on Virginia Politics on Demand on August 15, 2013.)

My long-ago colleague and collaborator at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, Peter Wehner, has an insightful and instructive article posted at Commentary magazine, headlined "Why Tone in American Politics Matters."

He points out that, as personally satisfying as combativeness in politics may be, it seldom paves the path to electoral victory. (I'd add that it seldom leads to legislative success, either.)

Looking at history and at current conditions, Wehner notes that American voters are non-ideological by their nature, and that is why one's tone matters as much as, if not more than, one's stated positions on policy issues.

"The willingness to fight for a cause is often an admirable thing," he writes,

and many of us were drawn to politics in large part because of a desire to advance a set of convictions. That effort elicits opposition, which in turn leads to clashes. That is the nature of politics in a republic and something that can’t (and shouldn’t) be avoided. Politics ain’t beanbag.

But in choosing to fight, one needs to pick the most favorable terrain possible–and even then (and whenever possible) to wage battles with affability, a touch of grace, and in a manner that projects steadiness and reasonableness. Winsomeness, equanimity, and a moderate temperament (which is different than moderate policies) are what most voters are looking for in candidates–especially from people who have strong philosophical convictions. It’s a mistake to assume that in order to be principled one has to be alienating and agitated.
This is a message worth repeating -- and worth scrutinizing, for that matter -- but above all, it's a message that should be taken to heart by activists and candidates alike.




Sunday, October 20, 2013

History of World War II industrial effort gets new life in paperback

Historian Arthur Herman at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington
Historian Arthur Herman at the American Enterprise Institute
(This article appeared originally on Virginia Politics on Demand on July 1, 2013.)

It has come to my attention that Freedom's Forge: How American Business Produced Victory in World War II, written by Charlottesville-based historian Arthur Herman, will be published in paperback on July 2. The book was first released in hardcover in May 2012 and, soon afterward, I had an opportunity to interview Herman about it.

The most important takeaway of Herman's research is that, contrary to mythology, America's successful industrial effort during the Second World War was not the result of central planning or intensive government action. Rather, it succeeded precisely because it was decentralized and (relatively speaking) undirected.

By contrast, Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan had highly centralized, highly bureaucratized war industries that collapsed under their own weight (much as the Soviet Union did, 45 years later, at the end of the Cold War).

I interviewed Arthur Herman, by coincidence, on the anniversary of the D-Day invasion of Normandy. He summarized some of his findings:
Industrial goods needed by the military – airplanes, ships, weapons, and Jeeps – came about because, even before Pearl Harbor “the military learned it was best to let business and manufacturers handle it themselves,” and that production should be decentralized, Herman said.

“They learned that minimal control from Washington -- or even from the military services -- usually ended up getting products on time,” he explained, and “at a continually lower cost as well.”

That, he said, “was really the key ingredient in the whole wartime production effort,” the fact “that the manufacturers and producers found ways to constantly roll the costs down."

This became, he said, "a huge boon not just for the American military, really giving us the tools to win World War II," but also a "huge boon to American business and industry because they became leaner, more efficient operating organizations as a result of the wartime effort.”
When I commented that some of the real-life figures he profiled in his book reminded me of characters out of an Ayn Rand novel like The Fountainhead or Atlas Shrugged, he agreed.
“What Ayn Rand understood,” he said, “and one of the lessons that you get from her work, which is in some ways is reflected in this book, is that what the arsenal of democracy was really all about wasn’t ships and tanks and planes, any more than national wealth or an economy is about oil wells and gold mines and factories and industrial output or goods and services.”

Rather, he explained, “what it’s really about is creativity. It’s about the creativity of the human mind. It’s about vision. It’s about leadership and problem-solving.”

Throughout its history, he noted, American business has “been really at the forefront of all of those aspects. That’s what drives American business. That’s what drives American civilization.”
Herman told me that one of the surprising things he learned while doing research for Freedom's Forge was how many people on the home front sacrificed their lives to the war effort.
“The most interesting statistic, stunning statistic that came out of my research was that in 1942, as this war production effort is going on, the number of Americans killed or injured in war-related industries surpassed the number of Americans in uniform killed and wounded in action in the war by a factor of 20 to 1,” he said.

The civilian sector of “what we call the Greatest Generation were [not] just sitting at home or just comfortably handling jobs while people in uniform were out risking their lives at sea and on land and in the air,” he said.

To the contrary, he explained, war production was “incredibly dangerous work. It involved enormous sacrifice from lots of people, including business executives. One hundred eighty-nine General Motors senior executives died on the job during the war.”
Another thing that people might find surprising is that the industrial war effort began long before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941.
In fact, “the war production effort was well underway well before Pearl Harbor,” Herman pointed out.

“As I explain in the book, it really began in the summer of 1940 when Roosevelt realized war is going to come” and that he had to get the country ready for it,” so FDR called “Bill Knudsen, president of General Motors, and says, how do I do it?”

With the system that Knudsen put in place, with Roosevelt’s blessing, Herman continued, “far from being caught off guard, we had gone from a standing start to a wartime production that was fast approaching that of Hitler’s Germany. A lot of people don’t realize that but this is in fact what American industry could do.”
That 18-month jump on the "official" start of the war gave both military and civilian leaders a good learning curve
“starting in the summer of 1940,” Herman said, and “what the military learned was it was best to let business and manufacturers handle it themselves.”

The War Department, he explained, and President Roosevelt himself “learned that minimal control from Washington or even from the military services usually ended up getting products on time -- getting the tanks and planes and ships built -- at a continually lower cost as well”

The “key ingredient” of wartime production, Herman said, “is that the manufacturers and producers found ways to constantly roll the costs down, so it was a huge boon not just for the American military, giving us the tools to win World War II, but it was also a huge boon to American business and industry because they became leaner, more efficient operating organizations as a result of the wartime effort.”
While it may be common knowledge that some of the biggest pieces of war equipment were manufactured at the Newport News shipyards and similar facilities on both coasts of the United States, some vital items were made in central Virginia -- even in Charlottesville factories.
One was Ix Mills, located where the Frank Ix building still stands south of downtown.

FreedomsForge-bDuring the war, he said, Ix Mills “moved from making commercial textiles to making parachute cloth. They really became the center of the parachute cloth making for the Second World War.”

The soldiers “who jumped on D-Day” as portrayed in Stephen Spielberg’s film, Saving Private Ryan, as well as the “airmen who had to jump out over Germany and at sea during the Second World War were using Charlottesville-produced parachutes.”

The other Charlottesville company that Herman discovered during his research was Southern Welding, which “made various kinds of iron piping and steel tubing. During the war, they shifted to making the steel tubing for aircraft, to contain all the electric lines and so on in B-24s and B-25s. What they also did, and their real breakthrough, is they developed the parts for arrester gear on navy aircraft carriers.”

The arrester gear allowed planes to land on the carriers without being pulled apart by a braking mechanism.

“Southern Welding, here in Charlottesville, developed the parts and manufactured the parts that went on aircraft carriers all across the Pacific. In fact, at one point, Charlottesville-made arrester gear and tailhook gear was on 43 separate aircraft carriers during the Second World War.”
Freedom's Forge is a great read. Far from a dry recitation of economic facts, the book offers compelling character profiles of otherwise unknown leaders. It shows how personality conflicts can affect the course of history and demonstrates that free enterprise can be beneficial even when -- or especially when -- the country is at war, and that efforts to direct the economy from Washington are usually (if not always) counterproductive.

If you haven't yet read Arthur Herman's account of America's World War II industrial triumph, get a paperback copy now to take with you to the beach this summer. It's an entertaining page-turner of 20th century history.




Saturday, October 19, 2013

Practical effects of the Supreme Court's voting rights ruling

SignVoterReg(This article appeared originally on Virginia Politics on Demand on June 25, 2013.)

Coby Dillard has already summarized what the U.S. Supreme Court did, and did not, do in its ruling Tuesday morning in the case of Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder, Attorney General, in striking parts of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (as reauthorized by Congress in 2006).

What I would like to explain is what practical effect this will have on voting in the Commonwealth of Virginia, one of the nine states covered under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, requiring pre-clearance by the U.S. Department of Justice for virtually all legal and regulatory changes in voting procedures and elections.

With a few exceptions, all counties and cities in Virginia must seek permission from the federal government before making any changes in the way they conduct elections. The most recent exception is Hanover County, which was "bailed out" of the pre-clearance requirement, as explained in a news release posted by the Department of Justice on Monday:

The Justice Department announced today that it has reached an agreement with Hanover County, Va., that will allow for the county, a covered jurisdiction under the special provisions of the Voting Rights Act, to bail out from coverage under these provisions. Bailout will exempt Hanover County, along with the town of Ashland, from the preclearance requirements of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. The agreement is in the form of a consent decree filed today in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia and must be approved by the court....

“In the department’s view, the county has met the requirements necessary for bailout. We reached this conclusion after thoroughly reviewing information provided by the county as well as information gathered during the Department’s independent investigation,” said Matthew Colangelo, Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “We appreciate the county’s cooperation in the resolution of this matter.”
The bail-out process has always been an option for localities covered by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, but it is expensive and time-consuming and requires the attention of numerous officials from the Electoral Board to the city or county attorney. The Electoral Board in Charlottesville (on which I serve) has considered applying for a bail-out several times over the past few years, but the expense -- the equivalent cost of a general election, or more -- plus the fact there was no guarantee of success deterred us from initiating the process.

That said, a Huffington Post headline today -- "The Last Voting Rights Act Bailout Ever Went To Hanover County, Va." -- suggests that the bail-out question is moot, unless Congress comes up with a formula that meets constitutional muster and restores Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, so that the pre-clearance provisions of Section 5 can again be implemented.

On a practical level, ending the pre-clearance requirements will make it much easier for election officials in Virginia to do their jobs. While much attention has been paid to how the Supreme Court's ruling affects things like congressional and other legislative redistricting or statewide voter ID laws, the ripples of Shelby County v. Holder will be felt in countless tiny ways on topics that seldom make the headlines.

For instance, every time a polling place is moved from one location to another, Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act required us to seek permission from the Justice Department, a process that had to be approved at least 30 days prior to the move's taking effect. (In reality, permission had to be granted even earlier, because of the cascade of tasks that must be completed before election day, including the commencement of absentee voting, sending out voter registration cards with new information, posting advertisements in newspapers alerting voters about the changes, etc.)

To give you a sense of how detailed this pre-clearance process could be, consider this example. Some Charlottesville voters currently cast their ballots in the cafeteria of Johnson Elementary School. If we needed to move the voting location to the school's library down the hall, we would need Justice Department pre-clearance.

Buying new voting machines, making technical adjustments to precinct boundaries, moving the office of the General Registrar -- all these had required pre-clearance by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Each of those items required action by the Electoral Board, the General Registrar, the City Attorney, and (in most cases) City Council. They took time and energy away from other tasks that need to be done to assure fair, transparent, honest, and efficiently-run elections.

I will leave to others to debate the political implications of the Supreme Court's decision Tuesday. As for the practical effects, the Court has removed a tremendous burden -- some might even say nuisance -- from the shoulders of election officials across the country. For that we can be grateful.



Friday, October 18, 2013

From the Archives: 'The Poverty of Development Economics in Africa'

(This article appeared originally in the New York City Tribune on March 16, 1990, under the headline, "The Poverty of 'Development Economics' in Africa."  It has not previously appeared on the World Wide Web.)

African development specialists complain that Poland and Hungary will get over $500 million in economic aid in 1990 while the entire continent of Africa gets only about two-thirds that amount. There are substantial arguments to justify this imbalance, the most persuasive being that the Poles and Hungarians are eager to transform their deteriorating economic systems into free enterprise zones.

At the same time, it is clear that billions of dollars poured into persistently socialist and increasingly corrupt African governments over the past two or three decades has been money down a rathole. Congress and the President seem to think that American aid should be sent where it will be used most wisely and most profitably.

Certainly, poverty in Africa is one of the most serious problems facing the world today. Pervasive hunger and heavy national debts on that huge continent drain the international economy of resources that could be put to better use elsewhere, creating wealth rather than depleting it. To understand the current sad state of economic development in sub-Saharan Africa, one must go back to the early independence period.


Unfortunately, for both political and economic reasons, African governments adopted statist economic policies whose effect was to stifle growth, not enhance it. As Indian economist Deepak Lal put it in his aptly-titled book, The Poverty of 'Development Economics', “The most serious current distortions in many developing countries are not those flowing from the inevitable imperfections of a market economy but the policy-induced, and thus far from inevitable, distortions created by irrational dirigisme.”

In other words, current poverty in Third World countries and especially in Africa is the result of conscious policy decisions by ruling elites, often aided by development economists trained in the West who quite readily discarded the classical and orthodox economics in the tradition of Adam Smith, David Ricardo, and even John Maynard Keynes in favor of dicier theories and practices.

Perhaps the most trenchant and unconventional critique of orthodox development economics is found in Jane Jacobs' widely-discussed 1984 book, Cities and the Wealth of Nations. In it, Jacobs tackles head-on the field of macroeconomics and the development policies that flow from it, calling the whole field “a shambles.”

Like others who have analyzed the history of development aid, Jacobs notes that the impulse to send aid to underdeveloped countries was electrified by the success of the Marshall Plan in post-war Western Europe. The problem, of course, is that Marshall Plan aid was intended to repair fully developed but war-damaged economies, not transform embryonic economies ex nihilo.

“The healing of organisms,” she says, “including the organisms known as economies – is not at all the same as the metamorphosis of organisms, the conversion of them into something different.” Since the growing development industry of the 1950s and 1960s insisted on calling its projects “mini-Marshall Plans” and the like, disappointment was inevitable. This disappointment came at a high prices, as well.

One estimate is that in the 30 years ending in 1986, the West transferred about $1.6 trillion to the Third World, an amount equal to the total worth of all industrial stock traded on the New York Stock Exchange, and double the value of the entire U.S. agricultural sector.

The failure of the development economists was in their definition of development. They saw poverty as an obstacle to be overcome. They used military rhetoric to define development as a single-minded goal that can be reached by strategies, long-term planning, and setting targets. The unstated assumption was that “economic life can be conquered, mobilized, bullied, as indeed it can be when it is directed toward warfare, but not when it directs itself to development and expansion.”

Moreover, as Michael Novak has often pointed out, development economists are forever seeking the “causes of poverty.” Poverty, across all cultures and for most of human history, is mankind's normal state. What needs to be explored are the causes of wealth. Fortunately, that project was set off on a good start by Adam Smith in 1776.

The key, argues Jacobs, is that by its very nature, “successful economic development has to be open-ended rather than goal-oriented, and has to make itself up expediently and empirically as it goes along.” Jacobs defines economic development “as a process of continually improvising in a context that makes injecting improvisations into everyday life feasible,” amplifying this definition with the concept of “drift”: development entails “unprecedented kinds of work that carry unprecedented problems, [which drift into] improvised solutions, which carry further unprecedented work carrying unprecedented problems ...”

Small-scale economic actors in the Third World can be remarkable flexible in this fashion. Precisely because of the precariousness of their situation (most often in the unprotected, informal sector that exists apart from the officially sanctioned economy), peasants and micro-entrepreneurs respond well to the price mechanism. Deepak Lal argues that “unlike in richer countries, economic agents in poor ones will have few 'reserves' to fall back upon and will thus have to adjust speedily to a change in their economic environment by swiftly altering the terms on which they are willing to exchange economic commodities.” In developed economies, protected by large savings or the safety net of the welfare state, economic actors “can postpone the required price adjustments in a changing economic environment.”

It seems clear from this analysis that the informal sector – which, after all, existed and grew in the pre-modern era in Western countries even during the age of mercantilism – is the most effective engine of economic growth. It alone, unencumbered by the conservatism of bureaucracies and political elites, ready to adjust to changing conditions, willing to risk arrest and prosecution in order to achieve economic success, can create the conditions for growth even in the poorest of countries. Western development aid should thus be focused on assisting the informal, small-business sector and avoid government-to-government transfers that entrench unproductive, statist policies.

Richard Sincere is a Washington-based issues analyst and author of Sowing the Seeds of Free Enterprise: The Politics of U.S. Economic Aid in Africa, published in 1990 by the International Freedom Foundation.